Last week we reported on a Hawker Typhoon being restored to flying condition by a group of volunteers near Comox, British Columbia. This week we can report on another vintage aircraft that will soon be on display in the same area – at 19 Wing’s Comox Air Force Museum and Heritage Park.
The British-designed and built de Havilland Vampire F.3 jet fighter/interceptor, formerly operated by the RCAF, is destined to be placed inside a transparent pavilion for display at the museum’s outdoor area. It must be protected this way as much of the aircraft is of wooden construction and would deteriorate if left for any length of time outdoors. In fact, the aircraft has been at CFB Comox since May of 2000 but has been tucked away in various hangars at the base, away from public view.
The Vampire was operated by the RCAF from 1948 until they were replaced with Canadair CF-86 Sabres in 1958. Although classified as a fighter, it was also used extensively for training at Trenton, Ontario, introducing pilots to jet power, tricycle landing gear and cockpit pressurization. The single-engine aircraft was remarkable in many ways, not least as one of the first aircraft ever to be powered by a jet engine. It was the first jet-powered aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier and the first to fly across the Atlantic (landing at Gander, Newfoundland). Although it didn’t enter service (with the RAF) until just after the Second World War ended, over 3,260 were produced with 85 purchased by Canada to serve with the air force. Some of the RCAF Vampires were based at Sea Island, where 442 Transport was based until moving to Comox to make way for an expanding Vancouver International Airport.
The museum has embarked on a fund-raising goal of $1.5 million to build the glass pavilion and equip it with lighting for nighttime viewing. To date, more than $350,000 has been raised.
There is one other de Havilland Vampire available for public viewing in Canada, and it belongs to the Waterloo Warbirds of Ontario. A flight in it can be purchased for $3,000.